The Yankees will move Gleyber Torres from shortstop to second base, manager Aaron Boone announced to reporters Monday (Twitter links via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). The move is designed “to take some pressure off” Torres. Gio Urshela has the day off Monday but will get reps at shortstop down the stretch, beginning tomorrow, with DJ LeMahieu playing third base. Tyler Wade is at short today, with Torres at second.
The Torres decision comes a day after he made his 18th error of the season and his fourth in the past week at shortstop. Defensive metrics are down on Torres’ work as well. Defensive Runs Saved has him at minus-12 on the season, while Statcast’s Outs Above Average pegs him at minus-8.
There’s been talk of moving Torres off shortstop for some time now, but that chatter has picked up considerably since the beginning of the 2020 campaign. Torres made nine errors in just 320 innings at shortstop last season with poor defensive ratings as well. However, the Yankees stuck with him at the position and instead focused their offseason efforts on retaining LeMahieu and finding affordable arms to round out the pitching staff without exceeding the luxury tax.
Torres’ defensive struggles this season had already fueled speculation that the Yankees will be players in the offseason market for shortstop help. Today’s announcement from Boone would seem to cement that likelihood, as the Yankees don’t have an immediate heir-apparent who is knocking down the door to the big leagues. Anthony Volpe has broken out with an enormous season in the minors, but he’s still just 20 years old and has yet to reach Double-A. He could be an option by 2023 or 2024, assuming good health and continued production.
Urshela has limited experience at shortstop and is regarded as a solid defender at third base, but he’s not likely to step up as a long-term option there. He’ll turn 30 next month, making him older than a number of the free-agent shortstops set to hit the market this winter, and his offense has taken a step back in 2021 as well.
Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Javier Baez are all slated to reach free agency this winter, and it’s certainly feasible that some names will pop up on the trade market as well. The Yankees have about $130MM committed to next year’s payroll, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez, and an absolutely enormous arbitration class — headlined by Aaron Judge. Each of Gary Sanchez, Jameson Taillon, Joey Gallo, Chad Green, Urshela, Jordan Montgomery, Wandy Peralta, Luke Voit, Torres, Clint Frazier, Domingo German, Miguel Andujar, Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Lucas Luetge and Wade will be arb-eligible as well.
There will be some non-tenders and trades of players in that group, inevitably, which will lower the cost of that sizable class. The Yankees also managed to duck under the luxury tax in 2021, so they won’t be facing any penalties in 2022 — although with the CBA expiring, we can’t know precisely what the next iteration of the competitive balance tax will even look like. Regardless, it’s hard to envision a scenario where they slide Torres back to shortstop in 2022. It seems quite likely the Yankees will factor prominently into the offseason shortstop market, exploring high-end free agent options, short-term stopgaps for Volpe and creative alternatives on the trade market.
For the time being, the Yanks will hope that the new defensive alignment helps to turn the tides after a dismal 2-8 showing in their past 10 games. They’re currently one game back of the Red Sox and the scorching-hot Blue Jays, who are in a tie in the Wild Card standings. Both the Mariners and the A’s are just two games behind the Yankees.